JUST when it seemed a rollercoaster of an afternoon had reached its final stop, there was time for one more big twist as Cherries fans settled in back at home following their entertaining draw with Chelsea.

After a promising start in which Philip Billing missed two glorious opportunities, Marcos Alonso struck at the other end to give the visitors a half-time lead.

But the flat atmosphere suddenly burst into life as Cherries flew out of the traps after the restart, getting themselves 2-1 up thanks to a quick-fire double with Jefferson Lerma and Joshua King on the scoresheet.

Eddie Howe's men looked to be grinding out a precious victory, but were stung five minutes from time when full-back Alonso popped up again to head home, despite the despairing dive of Aaron Ramsdale.

A disappointing finale but, after back-to-back defeats, an important point.

However, nobody could have predicted what would come next as Watford, a side three points behind Cherries when they kicked off against runaway leaders Liverpool, stunned the champions elect, inflicting a first defeat of the season on Jurgen Klopp's relentless Reds.

Not only that, but their 3-0 winning margin saw them nip above Cherries on goal difference, plunging Howe's men back into the relegation zone with fellow strugglers West Ham also picking up a victory early in the day.

Cherries head to Anfield next weekend and although they are now in the bottom three, the performance and point against Chelsea should still be viewed positively.

Howe made four changes to the side which lost 3-0 at Burnley last weekend. Nathan Ake and Lerma returned from injury to start alongside Ryan Fraser and Lewis Cook, with the midfielder making the XI in the Premier League for the first time since New Year’s Day.

Simon Francis, Dan Gosling and Harry Wilson dropped to the bench, with Andrew Surman missing out altogether.

Seemingly still feeling the effects of their midweek 3-0 loss against Bayern Munich, Chelsea looked shaky from the off as Cherries came out of the blocks fast.

But they were unable to take either of their two golden opportunities. The first came via Jack Stacey, who overlapped down the right flank before crossing low for Billing, who could only fire straight at goalkeeper Willy Caballero.

Billing was in again moments later, nipping the ball away from Fikayo Tomori and bearing down on goal from the right channel, but he dragged his effort into the side netting.

Cherries created a third opportunity inside the opening 10 minutes. King got free down the left wing and rolled it across to Callum Wilson in the centre, whose shot was swatted away by Caballero.

Having ridden the early storm, Chelsea began to settle into the contest, dominating possession inside their opponents' half.

And their territory was duly rewarded with a goal just past the half-hour mark. Impressive Reece James burst down the right, crossing for Olivier Giroud who got ahead of Ake to volley against the crossbar. Alonso was on hand to slam high into the net on the rebound for his second goal in as many weeks.

Frank Lampard’s side came close to quickly adding to their tally after the break as Mason Mount found space in the box to cross low, but Stacey slid in to turn away the danger.

And the interception proved vital as Cherries broke down the other end to level up. It came via a corner, swung over by Fraser and met powerfully by a leaping Lerma, rising above Mateo Kovacic to head through the hand of Caballero for his first goal of the season. It was also the first time Lerma had netted at Vitality Stadium since joining Cherries last summer.

Three minutes later, the comeback was complete. Billing collected the ball in midfield before releasing Stacey down the right, who found King at the back post to tap home for his first goal since November. After a check for offside by VAR, the effort stood.

Lampard quickly turned to his bench, introducing Willian and Ross Barkley in a change of formation.

But Cherries had their tails up and a bouncing crowd was almost treated to a third home goal when the ball fell for Callum Wilson in the box, but his shot was turned away by Caballero.

Howe introduced Junior Stanislas in place of scorer King, much to the disappointment of the Norwegian as Chelsea began to threaten again.

With 10 minutes to go, Cherries dropped deeper and deeper to try and protect their priceless lead.

But the defence was breached with five minutes to play.

Pedro’s shot was brilliantly saved by Ramsdale, but the goalkeeper could not quite keep out Alonso’s header on the rebound.

The Spaniard went close to grabbing his hat-trick in the dying minutes, heading just wide as the spoils were shared.

Cherries: Ramsdale; Stacey, S Cook, Ake, Smith; Billing, Lerma, L Cook (Gosling, 80); Fraser, King (Stanislas, 68), C Wilson.

Unused subs: Francis, Rico, H Wilson, Solanke, Boruc (g/k).

Booked: Smith, C Wilson.

Chelsea: Caballero; James, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Tomori (Willian, 64), Alonso; Jorginho (Barkley, 64), Kovacic; Mount, Pedro, Giroud (Batshuayi, 71).

Unused subs: Rudiger, Gilmour, Loftus-Cheek, Arrizabalaga (g/k).

Booked: Jorginho, Christensen.

Referee: Andre Marriner.

VAR: Paul Tierney.